MS Stem Cell Therapies Show Promise, But More Work Is Needed, Researcher Tells ACTRIMS 2016

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MS and stem cell therapy

Dr. Andrew Goodman of the University of Rochester discussed the latest research and perspectives on stem cell strategies for people with multiple sclerosis (MS), saying in a presentation at the Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ACTRIMS) Forum 2016 that such therapies, while promising, are not yet ready for widespread clinical use.

New therapies for MS patients that might both restore the immune system and protect the nervous system are greatly needed. Dr. Goodman, a professor of Neurology, chief of the Neuroimmunology Unit, and director of the Multiple Sclerosis Center at the university, reviewed current stem cell therapy approaches, including the use of “hematopoietic stem cell reconstitution following immunoablation, mesenchymal stem cells, and oligodendrocyte precursor cells” in a presentation titled “Stem Cell Therapy for MS.

His presentation at the forum, which ran Feb. 18–20 in New Orleans, Louisiana, offered:

  • an overview of the biology of stem cells
  • an understanding of the distinct goals of the various cell-based therapeutic strategies under study as potential MS therapies
  • an appreciation for the potential benefits, risks, and methodological uncertainties associated with stem cell transplantation

In MS, the immune system attacks the body’s own myelin, the fatty covering that insulates nerves and facilitates nervous system communication. Stem cell therapies may be directed at replacing the faulty immune system, at increasing levels of oligodendrocytes (the cells that create myelin), or even at increasing neurons that could be damaged in MS.

Numerous issues still need to be answered regarding the safety and effectiveness of stem cell therapy, Dr. Goodman said in the presentation, such as understanding whether immune system restoration via stem cells should be combined with transplantation of nervous system cells, specifically oligodendrocytes and neurons. Goodman also considered whether autologous (self-derived) stem cells should be used, or if they may have intrinsic deficiencies, since they come from a person with a neurodegenerative disease.

According to Dr. Goodman’s PowerPoint presentation at ACTRIMS, which was made available, he concluded that, overall, “Several types of cell-based therapeutic strategies are under investigation, with different risks, benefits, and goals. Some of these strategies show promise but significant methodological questions need to be answered. Stem cell transplantation is not yet appropriate for general use to treat MS.”

One issue Dr. Goodman highlighted was the need for extensive genetic screening of cells to assure that possible cancer-causing mutations are not introduced.

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  1. Ali Ridley says:

    Fabulous news – please allow further testing and investigation to quicken so people with MS can have a significant and effective treatment.

  2. TERRY HELLER says:


    • Phantom says:

      What kind of treatment did you get? The only mention I find of a Dr. Lander is out of the Panamas. I think everyone needs to take caution with the fly by nights stem cell centers. I think that the trials need to be expanded and progressive as the work that is being looked at by Northwestern in Chicago is very promising but super restrictive for who can get into the trial. We need MORE trials so the fly by nights don’t tarnish the good work that is being done.

    • Joan Quilter says:

      My daughter went to Germany 3 years ago, and had her own stem cells used from her hip bone marrow. She, too, showed no improvement at all. I think an MS patient must go through chemo (HSCT) first to reboot the immune system. But this therapy is risky, and chemo can kill patients. My daughter can’t do this because she’s too severely disabled.

      • Phil Longford. says:

        Stem cell treatment looks like the first possible treatment for MS. Risky at the moment. Hope that it is not too long before benefits outweigh the risks.

  3. Greg Bond says:

    I underwent HSCT in 2003 at Northwestern under Dr. Richard Burt, a leader in this therapy for several autoimmune diseases. It cost me about $75k and insurance did not cover it because it was experimental. I went until 2008 with no disease activity and modest improvements in disability. Then I relapsed and went on Copaxone, then Rituxan, now on Tysabri. Seems like it worked for a while, then the MS came back and is more difficult to treat, much like cancer is harder to treat when/if it returns. The problem with this treatment in my opinion, is it ree-boots the immune system but fails to address the genetic component, leaving the person still susceptible to it returning.

  4. Craig Tyler says:

    I disagree with Dr Goodman’s statement in regard to one type of stem cell strategy. Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation (HSCT) is a proven therapy ready for widespread clinical use. It is backed by an extensive history of clinical trial publications demonstrating an effectiveness superior to all current MS medications and other stem cell therapies. Safety of HSCT has been demonstrated by Northwestern in Chicago. They have been performing HSCT since 1990 (1996 for MS).

    • Joan Quilter says:

      It all depends on the patient’s degree of disability. If you’re too severely disabled, chemo can kill you.

      • Phil Longford. says:

        Bit of a dilemma. If not too badly affected by MS, why risk your life getting stem cell treatment. If badly affected, when prepared to risk your life for a treatment, it does not work. Bit of a bugger!

  5. wayne fenton says:

    A new treatment possibility is announced about every three months give or take none ever see them get past the announcement EVER unless BIG PHARMA can make an enormous profit from the drug , the patient and the medical community, stem cell therapy has been done for years in various countrys with success, now they tell us the B.S. it needs years more research too late for many but what F**K DO THEY CARE as long as they get paid from something !

    • Alisa Woods, PhD says:

      The article reports the opinion and findings of Dr. Andrew Goodman, a professor of Neurology at the University of Rochester.

      • Bonnie Young says:

        I realize who he is because he is my doctor. Dr Goodman explained that i was not ready , i know now ‘why’ he said that it was because i am not currently walking, i use a wheel chair. I want to do the stem cell to get me back at least to walk a bit…so it is not a cure, i just want a CHANCE! thank you

    • Francesca says:

      Money is in the medicine not in the cure. If they could figure out a way to make money off our stem cells then it would be a treatment.

  6. Rishi Bharath says:

    I need to make myself available for some of these stem cell clinical trials because most doctors in my own country of trinidad and tobago tend to neglect the tough cases like mines [diagnosed with a T3 angiolipoma] and leave you to die rather than help you or send you in the right direction, sadly.

  7. Phil Longford says:

    Not wanting to be an old misery, but where is the incentive for the drug companies to find a CURE? Lifelong treatment, great. Loads of profit. But a little pill, then better? Where is the benefit (to shareholders), in that?
    I am following the Wahls Protocol Diet. No Gluten, no dairy, no eggs etc. No improvement in the MS yet (6 months), but might as well continue.
    If stem cell treatment works, I will be signing up. What have we got, to loose?

  8. I also follow the Wahls Protocol and have been doing so for over a year and it seems to be managing my MS very well.

    I am not stringent with the diet but do avoid dairy and gluten most of the time.

    I am still mobile although I use a walking stick for short distances and a wheelchair for longer excursions.

    I am watching the HSCT news closely, but am acutely aware that it is still experimental.

  9. Cindy Williams says:

    I tried StemGenix in san Diego Ca to have my own stem cells taken out, cleaned and energizer and replaced into my system to treat MS. Doctors said 3 to 9 months to see improvement, been 4 months and nothing is better. The ideal is sound but the slowness in getting the stem cells therapy to trials is mindless, should be a rush for this type of possible treatment for MS!

    • Stephen says:

      Cindy, I am sorry to hear your StemGenix is showing no benefit. I have a family member who went to Amsterdam for Stem Cell replacement, at great expense, he too has seen no improvement.

      It is easy to get too optimistic when you read of some success stories.

      • Phil Longford says:

        Stem cell treatment is probably the way forward, eventually! For now, I am following the Wahls Protocol diet, gluten free, egg free, dairy free, etc. Easy to follow. Also, once weekly Baric oxygen treatment. No noticeable difference, EXCEPT if I miss weekly sessions, I feel worse. So maybe it is helping? Anything worth a try! ?

      • Francesca says:

        I believe those types or transplants without the chemo will not be as positive…… Need to wipe out the memory of the cells to self attack. I think too many people are getting taken advantage of by companies who make there treatment sound similar to HSCT but with no chemo piece. Sad very sad. And does having this watered down version complicate these warriors from having the actual treatment ??

        • Phil Longford says:

          It is becoming more obvious, that the key to the effectiveness of this treatment, is in the chemo. They have spent decades trying to perfect it for cancer, and, in some cases, it is a life saver. But they are always aiming to improve it. Same with the treatment for MS. Does not seem to need the heavy doses of chemo, but a more gentle approach, then the new stem cells work more quickly. We all want a cure NOW, but at least there is something positive happening. Just avoid getting conned! Do your homework.

        • Ian Franks says:

          Francesca, as the world is at the moment I agree that chemotherapy is essential to HSCT. In fact, it is the key part of the process, more important than the stem cells themselves.

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